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Cowles Library


Citation Management Tools

Guide to help you choose, install, and use citation managers like Zotero, Mendeley, and EndNote Basic.

What are citation managers?

Citation managers, also called reference managers, are applications you can use to create personalized collections of citations from your research sources. You can import citations from research databases and websites, or enter them manually, and organize and edit the citations for your research projects.

Citation managers also help you cite your research by creating bibliographies, citations, and footnotes in your preferred citation style automatically. However, you should always check the accuracy of your citations using a style manual before submitting assignments or research.

The library maintains a list of recommended style guides and manuals that includes both online tools and print manuals you can find on our shelves.

How do I choose a citation manager?

There are many options out there, and several factors to consider:

  • Price. Many citation managers are free. Paid options typically offer more advanced features and additional storage capacity. If you will not be managing multiple research projects over a long period of time, a free option is probably sufficient.
  • Does it support your preferred style? If you know you’ll need to format your citations using a specific style, like Chicago or MLA 8th Edition, make sure the citation manager supports that style.
  • Do you need it to be mobile-friendly or available across multiple devices? If you do research in multiple places on different computers, the ability to synchronize your citations can be a huge time-saver.
  • What are your colleagues/peers using? If you want to be able to collaborate on research projects and share citation lists, be sure the citation manager can support that collaboration.
  • Other considerations include the ability to add your own notes, search within PDFs, global edits, and more.

Cowles Library recommends one of the citation managers below. You can compare specific features using our comparison chart.

Guide to Zotero


Guide to Mendeley


Guide to EndNote Basic

EndNote Basic